INDIANAPOLIS — The combine is in full force as 325 prospects parade through Lucas Oil Stadium for NFL personnel and a multitude of media members.
Offensive linemen were the first position available to those masses. The big eaters stepped to the podium to talk to a throng of reporters eagerly anticipating any valuable quote that might slip.
Three top tackle prospects strode to the podium, stood behind the microphone and deliberated each probing question. They were Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, Boston College's Anthony Castonzo, and Alabama's James Carpenter.
Carimi and Castonzo are generally considered first round prospects while Carpenter's name should be called by the early portions of the third round.
Each is as different in their demeanor as the differentiation in their styles of play.
Carimi is brash, sarcastic and devoutly religious. His humor is well timed and he immediately makes his intentions well known.
Castonzo is intelligent and eager. He is eager to prove football is his predominant passion despite having a bright future in the field of biochemistry.
"Football is my first love," Castonzo said. "I put more work on what I did on the field. Academics always came easy to me. Football is something I love and I pour everything into it.
"I do think it (intelligence) is huge. You have to be able to understand, not only what you are doing on the play, but how the play works within the scheme. Defenses aren't stationary. They move around. You have to understand how you are going to react when they react. It's like a chess game trying to stay one step ahead of the other."
Carpenter is soft-spoken and a little withdrawn. He was frank, yet short with his answers.
"I think the best situation for me is something similar to what we did in Alabama," he said. "I can play both tackle and guard."
It didn't take long for one to lay down the gauntlet.
"I know I'm the best tackle out there, so I'm going to play and act like it," Carimi said.
In reality, the bravado may prove moot. USC's Tyron Smith weighed in at 307 pounds after he hovered around 290 for most of his collegiate career. His combination of newly found size and athleticism will make him the top tackle prospect in 2011.
Castonzo, Carimi, and Carpenter will all be vying to be chosen next. What they may do at the combine could cement if at least two of the three are legitimate top selections some envision. Or, they could slide into the early portion of round two.
The viability of discussing a player's personality isn't necessarily an accurate indicator of what said prospect will become on the field, but it does give insight into the person.
For example, this worst interview I have attempted while at the combine was with East Carolina running back Chris Johnston. He mumbled and bumbled through a 10 to 20 minute interview. He went on to become one of the best players in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. Lesson learned.
Despite the obvious exceptions to the rule, the interview process is invaluable. Team interviews and medicals are the most important factors during the combine.
What happens on the field is a small slice of the pie. The glimpses players display when the bright lights are on are just another part of the show.